Designated drivers are the night-watchers of a city who travel in a world outside of toasts and wine, but witness alcoholic life. Although they drive for others on others’ way home, they are also heading for their own life. In TMTpost Photo Gallery 019, we’d focus our attention on this group of people and leave a swift record of their stories.
It was 01:00 AM, March, 19th, Beijing Workers Stadium. A designated driver was waiting for his order outside of a bar. Undoubtedly, Beijing is one of the cities. Most designated drivers have at least five years of driving experience. Some of them work part-time, accept 4 to 4 orders everyday and earn 2000 to 3000 RMB for every month, while others work full-time, accept 8 to 10 orders every day and earn over 10,000 RMB monthly.
In the past, security guards at bars would help customers find designated drivers. With the rise of O2O designated driver platform, it is inevitable that security guards at bars will be in conflict with designated drivers from O2O platforms. On March, 12th, security guards at a bar near Beijing Workers Stadium, annoyed by a designated driver from O2O platforms waiting outside of the bar, pushed over his electric bike. After the designated driver called the police, over 30 designated drivers hurried to the bar, asking the policeman to stand up for their interests and the security guard to apologize to them. “However, he never appeared afterwards,” a designated driver who witnessed the incident told TMTpost.
It was 02:22 AM, March, 16th, around Sanlitun, Beijing. Some designated drivers are waiting for orders. Electric skateboards, bikes are important tools for designated drivers. They can keep them at the trunk while driving their customers back home, and put them out to leave for their next destination. Sometimes, if they have to drive to places so remote, they have to use these tools to go back to the fourth ring and then take a bus, since they either couldn’t find any car around or they are reluctant to spend so much money hailing a car. What’s worse, if their electric skateboards are out of electricity, they will have to walk back home while pushing their electric skateboards.
Mr. Chen (the guy in the right) is also a full-time designated driver. He receives three to four orders on average every day. “The hardest time for me was back in winter, when I have to stand outside of bars in heavy snow and harsh wind, with my toes almost frozen,” he recalled, “Shortly after I put out my phone, it will shut down due to severe cold.” Last winter, he had to ride his bike for 16 kilometers in snow to go back to the fourth ring after driving a customer back his villa around Changping District.
Mr. Zhao was also a full-time designated driver. He started working from 19:00 PM till 4 to 5 o’clock AM. On average, he could receive 3 to 4 orders every night. He has become accustomed to not drinking any water at night while having his stomach filled, so that he can save time going to the bathroom and stay up until next dawn. He also uses an electric skateboard to travel between different orders. Since he could only travel with his electric skateboard for 30 kilometers even if it is fully-charged, chances are that he will have to push it back home sometimes. For example, after driving a customer back his home in Daxing District, he pushed his electric skateboard for 8 kilometers while hailing cars with his mobile phone along the way. At last, he managed to hail a car near the sixth ring. “We have to travel across Beijing at nights, but no matter when we go to, we have to go back to the fourth ring to pick up the next order,” he explained.
Mr. Long is also a full-time designated driver. He started working at 19:00 PM, and finished until 05:00 AM in the next day. Before becoming a designated driver, he drove a small-sized van. However, it wasn’t easy to maintain a van, so he sold the van and started working as a designated driver. “It’s a lot easier to be a designated driver compared to driving a van or office work, while I get earn around 4,000 to 5,000 RMB every month,” he explained. He could still remember that once he drove a customer back home, but when he arrived at the gate of the residential community, the customer had already become drunk and was unable to tell clearly which building and room he lived. At last, he managed to take him back home by carrying him in the back after learning which room he lived in in a phone call. “That guy was around 1.8 or 1.9 meters high and was too heavy for me and another guy to carry in the back upstairs,” he recalled.
Mr. Li was also a full-time designated driver. He has encountered customers for many times who fell asleep after he drove the to the destination. He had no choice but to wait in the car, for even as long as three hours. During that time, he couldn’t receive any new order. “I can’t just leave them in the car. They are pretty much drunk and asleep,” he explained. Some customers would tip him after they woke up, finding that Mr. Li was still waiting for them, while others would just ask him to leave, saying “It’s okay, and you are free to go.” “At first, designated drivers are respected, and customers tend to be very polite; later on, when the number of designated drivers rises too much, many people began to not treat us politely. Worse still, some customers would even say awful things about us,” Mr. Li said, feeling helpless, “well, we have no choice but to bear this.” He even met some couples who got into quarrel and even fight in cars. “We have no choice but to pull over the car and convince them out of quarrelling and fighting,” he said.
Mr. Li is also a full-time designated driver. After working as a designated driver for over a year, he can still remember once he drove a customer back to Xianghe. “I earned over 100 RMB for that order, but spent 100 RMB to go back to downtown. It turned out that I only earned several RMB after driving so far away,” he complained, “I felt so annoyed that night, walking in harsh wind at around 01:00 AM. But I’ve got no choice but laugh at myself.” Before Mr. Li worked as a designated driver, he was a full-time driver. “In comparison, I find working as a designated driver less exhausting. I like it being a designated driver, since I also get to have more free time now,” he explained.
It was 24:00 o’clock, Beijing. A part-time designated driver was getting prepared to go back home and searching in his smartphone to see which bus he should take. He’s been working part-time as a designated driver for two months, only to make some extra money. “It’s already 24:00 o’clock, and I’ve got to go home and have a rest, since I still need to go to work tomorrow,” he explained.
Mr. Zhang is also a full-time designated driver. He worked from 19:00 PM until 05:00 AM in the next day. He could still not forget a huge “loss” he had last year: he could have earned 300 RMB for that order, but the customer didn’t pay. “At first, I called him and asked him to pay the bill. He was quite polite and promised that he would pay the bill when he was not busy. I was embarrassed to push him too hard, but at last, I couldn’t get through to his phone anymore,” he explained. The O2O platform also tried to help me, but didn’t work either. “What a pity, I am entitled to earn that money, since I worked really hard at that time,” he complained.
It was March, 15th. A designated driver was waiting for his customer to walk out of the KTV. He booked the designated driving service for 23:45 PM, but didn’t come out of the KTV until 24:00 PM.
In March, 8th, this designated also met a customer who promised to pay the bill afterwards but didn’t do so even a week later. “I could have earned 78 RMB for that order, but the customer just didn’t pay the bill even when the customer service personnel of our platform helped me,” he complained, “His car is worth over 300,000 RMB, but how could he be reluctant to pay the bill?”
In 2015, Mr. Liu worked as a designated driver in his hometown Tai’an. Since Jan, 13th, he started working in Beijing. Customers of designated driving service vary a great deal, and he has also met customers who behave so badly when they are drunk. “There was a time when the customer began to throw harsh words at me shortly after I started driving him home. When I drove to the second ring, it happened that some traffic policemen was investigating drunk driving. I couldn’t bear anymore, so I decided to leave the car and just go. Only then did the customer stopped throwing harsh words at me, apologized and asked me for help. I was too kind to drive him back home anyway,” he recalled. Mr. Liu used to be a soldier, so he really couldn’t bear people treating him that way for no reason.
After he moved to Beijing, Mr. Liu could receive 7 to 8 orders every day. He was a “bronze star” designated driver on the platform, and work from 19:00 PM to 06:00 AM till the next day. Except for several day-offs, he completed 340 orders from Jan 13th to March 13th. He attributed his “success” to good luck and experience. “I use smartphones with better navigation function, and never go to places where designated drivers flock. When I finished an order, I don’t just go to those hot-spot places. Instead, I would search if there are any restaurants around my destinations, and go there with my electric skateboard,” he explained, “I lose 30 kg after working as a designated driver for 5 months.”
It was 03:00 AM. The night bus was filled with electric skateboards of designated driver. At present, there are altogether 34 night bus lines in Beijing, covering all the major avenues within the third ring while extending to the major residential communities in the fourth ring. These night buses make it a lot more convenient for designated drivers to work at night.
It was over 03:00 AM. Several traffic policemen and assistant policemen were investigating drunk driving. Designated drivers on the night bus rushed to the front of the bus to have a look at them. They believed that designated driving orders were too few because traffic police didn’t investigate drunk driving oftentimes.
It was 01:37 AM, March, 19th. A designated driver fell asleep in his folding bike in the night bus.
At 02:00 AM, the designated driver found that his folding bike was lost. He was in such a hurry that he rushed to ask the bus driver and other passengers if they saw the bike.
“The light was off in the bus. I only had a nap, but wake up to find my bike lost.” It cost him over 1,000 RMB. Standing in the bus station, he felt at a loss seeing other designated drivers arrived at the station in the next bus. “I lost my bike, so I have to stop working for a few days,” he said.
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @fliesslaughterhouse, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.